Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Police apologise to football fans

Police have apologised after 80 Stoke City supporters were stopped from going to a match at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium last year.

Fans complained to the human rights group Liberty after being held by Greater Manchester Police at a pub in Irlam on 15 November for four hours.

They missed the game and were sent back to the Potteries.

The force said it was trying to prevent hooliganism but Liberty has said it is still considering legal action.

It has threatened a judicial review into the police force's actions unless it admits that what officers did was unlawful and breached human rights.

This isn't the end of the road, we've heard far too many cases where this legislation has been used to unfairly target football supporters
Malcolm Clarke, Football Supporters' Federation

Liberty said the fans had stopped at a pub 12 miles from the ground but, despite being well-behaved and no complaints being made by the landlord, the police refused to let them continue their journey to the match.

It said it highlighted a trend of police forces using Section 27 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act - which allows officers to move on anyone believed to pose a risk of alcohol-related disorder - in their handling of football fans.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police apologised and said it was now reviewing its use of the act to ensure it was only used when necessary.

It said it based all its actions on intelligence and used a variety of tactics to prevent violent disorder but had apologised to the fans concerned.

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters' Federation, said he was "very pleased" to see the police had apologised but urged them to now give the fans compensation and have their records deleted.

He added: "But this isn't the end of the road, we've heard far too many cases where this legislation has been used to unfairly target football supporters.

"We are still very keen to take this issue to judicial review as there is absolutely no guarantee that Section 27 will not be unlawfully used again."

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